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It happens. You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed when all of a sudden you get an alert that your BFF has tagged you in a photo. Uh oh…This isn’t from Saturday night’s party, is it?
Immediately you think back to all the shots of Fireball you swigged (at least the ones you can remember) and your impromptu, sweaty cover of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”. Please let this not be that moment when you fell to your knees, threw your hands up in the air, and prayed to the Rock ‘n’ Roll gods for the vocal chops of the one and only Freddie Mercury. (A prayer that would go unanswered. Curse you, heavens!) Someone should have stopped you. Someone should have told you, “No.”
Your mouse arrow creeps its way towards the beckoning notification. Please let it be flattering, you whisper to yourself. You knew donning that fake mustache and Burger King paper crown might come back to haunt you. If there was ever a time you needed divine intervention, it is now.
These are the moments your BFF is supposed to spare you from. After all, that’s what friends are for. Right? To delete that unspeakable photo of you in those floral harem pants or your exhausted food-coma-face after pounding a Big Momma’s burrito.
You hold your breath. Close your eyes. Silently say goodbye to any hope that your reputation might be spared, and do the unthinkable…
Oh, what a relief. It’s just the back of your head. No one could even tell it was you, even if they tried.
It’s everyday moments like these that strike fear into our hearts. The mere idea that we could not look attractive and appealing in photographs presented to our friends and loved ones for mass consumption. Although we know we have our imperfections, the sense of having some control over how you present yourself to the world is comforting. If you’re going to make a fool of yourself, you want to be the first one laughing.
But what happens when there isn’t a joke, and you find yourself the butt of it? Literally.
Last week at work, I heard a few of my guy coworkers were going outside to practice parkour. Naturally, I decided to join them. Because why in the hell not? Together we ran at a stone wall in the back office parking lot and attempted to climb it with our innate ninja skills. All in the while, friends were snapping away on their smartphones. Documenting that we are, in fact, cooler and more capable than we may seem (just go with me on this).
Soon we returned to our desks, covered in scratch marks full of dirt and pride. I sat down and readied myself to check out the results of our hard work. Swiping through my phone one picture after another, my jaw dropped closer and closer to the floor. While my coworkers looked like they could stunt double for Spiderman, I looked like I was doing a sad interpretation of “Baby Got Back”. Oh god, that’s what I look like from behind? The horror, the horror!
It was then that it struck me: Why am I having this reaction? So what if I looked like a hot mess with no upper body strength whatsoever? I had FUN. The high I had from going out and kicking it with my coworkers was still running through my blood, and I wasn’t going to let vanity get in the way of sharing an awesome outing. Without further hesitation, I posted the photos.
Not even 10 minutes later, I received a ping from a female friend-of-a-friend in my chat box.
“Why would you post those photos of yourself?” she questioned. “You know they don’t make you look good, right?”
Although taken aback, I wasn’t surprised by her comment. To an extent, it’s to be expected from her. She’s a frequent selfie-poster, the kind who takes 30 photos to find her best shot or makes you snap away at her from every angle until she’s satisfied. I have no qualms with this. What I do have a problem with is her making my appearance a priority to her. It’s one thing to feel embarrassed, it’s another for someone to feel embarrassed for you.
In the conversation that followed, I explained to her that I agreed they weren’t the most flattering pictures of me. However, that wasn’t the point of me posting them. I wasn’t showing off what my body looked like, I was showing off what it was capable of doing (or, admittedly, not doing – conquering that damn wall).
She was silent. The kind of silence that happens when you know the other person has read what you’ve said, but doesn’t know how to respond because they don’t agree or understand your point of view. My message wasn’t sinking in.
“Maybe next time you should wear a different outfit, like…” she continued with suggestions of the Lululemon variety.
At this point I knew it was time to bite my lip. She wasn’t coming from a place of disgust or superiority, even though it felt like that. She honestly just wanted me to present my best self. In her mind, she was being a good friend – protective, even. So I thanked her for the advice and politely said I had to get back to work.
Since that day, I can’t help but wonder what it means when our culture has come to a place where we refuse to acknowledge we’re human – flaws and all. The pressure of trying to always look perfect is not only exhausting, but inevitably impossible. Not to mention beauty is subjective.
Sure, we all want to make good impressions. We all have yearned to be the fairest of them all. But if that gets in the way of embracing what you’ve got and living life to the fullest, then what’s it all worth in the end?
So the next time I post a photo where I’m wearing a bedazzled sweater that a Bill Cosby-esque drag queen would be proud of or I have chocolate all over my cheeks after face-diving into a fudge brownie, I have a simple request.
I’m having a good time.